Washington | The United States today suspended negotiations with Russia on efforts to revive a failed ceasefire in Syria and set up a joint military cell to target jihadists.
“This is not a decision that was taken lightly,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said, accusing Russia and its Syrian ally of stepping up attacks on civilian areas.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest added: “Everybody’s patience with Russia has run out.”
“What is clear is there is nothing more for the US and Russia to talk about with regard to trying to reach an agreement that would reduce the levels of violence inside of Syria. And that’s tragic,” Earnest said.
Kirby said the Russian and US militaries will continue to use a communications channel set up to ensure their forces do not get in each other’s way during “counter terrorism operations in Syria.”
But the United States is calling back home personnel who had been sent to Geneva in order to set up a “Joint Implementation Center” with Russian officers to plan coordinated strikes.
And US diplomats will suspend discussions with Russia on reviving a September 9 deal reached between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Under that protocol, a truce came into effect on September 12, but it collapsed within a week amid bitter recriminations and a surge of fighting in the five-year civil war.
Washington has accused Moscow of failing to rein in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government forces and abetting his strikes on civilian targets.
“Unfortunately, Russia failed to live up to its own commitments, including its obligations under international humanitarian law,” Kirby said.
According to the US spokesman, Russia was “either unwilling or unable to ensure Syrian regime adherence to the arrangements to which Moscow agreed.
“Rather, Russia and the Syrian regime have chosen to pursue a military course, inconsistent with the cessation of hostilities, as demonstrated by their intensified attacks against civilian areas,” Kirby added.
Kirby accused Moscow and Damascus of “targeting of critical infrastructure such as hospitals, and preventing humanitarian aid from reaching civilians in need.” And he repeated Washington’s charge that Russia and the regime were responsible for the deadly September 19 attack on a United Nations aid convoy in northern Syria, outside Aleppo.
Moscow, meanwhile, says the United States failed to separate “moderate” anti-Assad rebels from jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda.
“We regret this decision by Washington to curtail the work of the specialist groups in Geneva, to withdraw their experts and to limit contacts only to the area of avoiding any conflicts,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
“Washington simply did not fulfill the key condition of the agreement to improve the humanitarian condition around Aleppo,” Zakharova said.